the little things: on the goodness of words (micha boyett).

Do you know what day today is?  It’s the official kick-off day for our 2014 guest post series, The Little Things – and I am just smitten to share with you the wise and wonderful, lovely and perfect words of my real-life friend, Micha.  Besides being a friend who makes you feel and cry, laugh and ponder, she’s also been a writing mentor of mine, and you’ll learn that there’s a good reason for that below.  So without further adieu, enjoy!  

Photo cred: Katie Veil.
Photo cred: Katie Veil.

 My brother painted a mural on my wall for my seventeenth birthday. That mural, which still remains as a testament to my teenage self, is covered with bright pink and yellow hearts and the words of John Keats and Walt Whitman.

A couple of weeks after its completion, one of my more “godly” and cute male friends in the youth group sat in my room and wondered aloud how I could have chosen Walt Whitman’s words over scripture. Wouldn’t a Psalm have been the better choice to paint on your wall? I wondered if he was right. Did that mean I loved poetry more than the Psalms? What was wrong with me?

So I woke up each morning of my senior year of high school to John Keats’ exclamation, “More happy love! More happy happy love!” and mentally chastised myself for loving words too much.

I longed for God to tell me that non-biblical words could be good and important, too. But I heard no answer. And I pushed that longing aside.

I vowed to be a missionary. I vowed to give myself to a life God would love.

*

In college my major changed from Missions to English. It happened slow. I found myself in the English department, happy and still inwardly making plans for a bigger life of Mission work. I’d just read the Classics first. And I’d study a little of the early 20th Century Feminist writers. It would be okay.

My requirements for graduation included “An Introduction to Creative Writing.” My professor, Dr. Fink, was the first living poet I’d ever met.

The second week in my creative writing course, I turned in a poem. I’d been writing poems in journals all my life, but never once, outside of middle school assignments, had I handed them over to another’s eyes. And this one was read and discussed by all twelve members of my class. After I survived that workshop, I did it again and again and again.

I loved and dreaded every part of giving my poems away. And I knew enough of God to know that often God came to me in the same way: in love and dread, in joy and heavy reality.

*

When Dr. Fink asked me to edit the Literary journal that year, I thought he was joking. I was sitting in the old wooden rocking chair he kept in front of his desk. Me? Why? I asked.

Because you’re a fantastic writer, he said. Just like that.

And in that moment, that small, insignificant moment of asking me to be the editor of the world’s least known literary magazine, I was transformed.  I never knew I could write until exactly then, in the rocking chair, staring at Bob Fink.

I look at my life now and think: How was that possible? How did I not know I could write?  I remember in 7th grade when Mr. Jester used my essay as an example. Or in 8th grade, when my poem was read aloud to the whole school assembly. I remember that paper I wrote on Moby Dick in eleventh grade and all the books I consumed in quiet corners. But somehow, before that moment, no one had told me (or I simply hadn’t chosen to hear them say) what I most longed to hear: “You’re good at this, Micha. This is your thing.”

And I stared at Bob Fink, the white-haired, lanky poet whose entire chest and shoulders bobbed up and down when he laughed. He was holding out a box of cookies to me, asking if I wanted one. Asking if I’d take a cookie and think it over. He wanted me to be the editor.

You’re a fantastic writer, Micha.

He was just a teacher being a teacher, really. But God was near in that room, whispering how my love for words was right, holy even. That’s when I became a poet. The thing I had loved since childhood was suddenly real. And good. And I was good at it.

*

If I live to be an old woman, I will look back on my life as a tapestry of sacred images, places where God met me, where I transformed.

There in that office, in the tiny English Department of an unknown Christian college, Bob Fink told me I was a poet. He gave me a cookie. And I stayed. Every week, as much as possible, I came to that rocking chair and we talked about poems. I learned to write an image. I learned to use my words with economy and clarity. I learned to embrace the questions and even my own darkness.

I learned to believe that God loved words, that sometimes, God breathes Holy into words.

I learned that I was made to scratch them down.

Photo cred: Ava Lowery, Flickr.
Photo cred: Ava Lowery, Flickr.

Micha (pronounced “MY-cah”) Boyett is a writer, blogger, and sometimes poet. Her first book, a memoir of prayer, will be released from Worthy Books in April 2014. A born and raised Texan, Micha lives in San Francisco with her husband, Chris, and their two sons. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook, and find her blog at michaboyett.com.

And now, from Cara again: Yes!  Yes, yes, yes!  I love how Micha captured that “…nothing, in fact, is small.”  What do you have to say to encourage our guest writer today?  

16 thoughts on “the little things: on the goodness of words (micha boyett).

  1. Hearing someone who knows her or his stuff say “You’re good at this” can be such an eye opener. Thanks for letting us see how it opened your eyes, Micha, and my thanks to Professor Fink for his well-timed encouragement to you. What a blessing for us all!

  2. As a writer, an English teacher, and a bona fide word nerd, I so appreciate (and can relate to!) this post.

    It always makes me sad when folks (like the young man of your youth group) don’t see that beautiful secular writing IS a way to find God. Any writing that makes us feel moved or awed or more aware of the beauty around us is inherently spiritual, because it points us towards the source of that beauty. I’m so glad your professor saw that and encouraged your gifts.

    1. And Ginny, I feel like you just said what I wanted to say perfectly. Word nerds unite! (And English teachers and writers, too).

      Cara Meredith

      be, mama. be. carameredith.com

  3. Sat reading with tears in my eyes. This is so similar to my story except, until just reading this, I hadn’t put all the pieces together as you have. You’ve helped me to remember that writing is my thing too. thank you so much.

  4. Micha, I love this post. A year or two before you, I had a similar experience with Dr. Fink, and it changed the course of my life. Congratulations on your new book—wow!

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